Kissa IPL Contract Ka
A tweet by Rajdeep Sardesai on the coverage of the IPL scandal by news channels created a buzz on Twitter a week back. His tweet stated that one media house in particular was going hammer and tongs after the IPL fiasco because the media house had lost out on a “lucrative contract”.
What followed was another nugget of the Editor’s Take.
Certainly, the twitterati had something new to wonder about. Who was Rajdeep alluding to? Questions poured in on his timeline. Who was he tweeting about…? Inevitably Times Now was the first name that popped up in the tweets of those doing guesswork.
But Mr Sardesai had already bid the Twitterverse goodnight. He never revisited his tweet or bothered to answer the questions on his timeline. But he had already done his job. Raised suspicion. After all, The Times of India and Times Now have ensured that IPL remains in the headlines for over two weeks with its aggressive reportage on the issue. What’s more, both have been running campaigns against the spot-fixing scandal – with the innovatively and dramatically named “Kill these games, save sports” and “Leading India on the IPL story” running simultaneously.
Not big fans of conjecture, Newslaundry tried getting the facts straight from the horse’s mouth. But Mr Sardesai simply refused to answer our calls or reply to our mails. Not to be outdone, like Vindoo on the trail of a good bet, we went through a checklist of the media houses to check which of them has any existing or prospective business link with IPL and BCCI. And bingo! All but one media group has a multi-crore contract with the IPL.
So, was Rajdeep referring to Times Now in his tweet?
Times Internet Limited, the online wing of Times Group headed by Sameer Jain’s son-in-law Satyan Gajwani won the bid for IPL’s global internet, mobile and radio rights, along with television rights in certain television territories in 2011. Times Internet Limited bought the rights for a total fee of Rs 261.6 crore for four years between 2011-14. This year, it entered into a partnership with DigiVive’s mobile television service nexGTv to secure the official mobile streaming rights for IPL 2013.
The question was, after the damage Times Now and TOI have singlehandedly done to the image of IPL and BCCI did the contract still stand strong? According to the business head and manager of overall strategy for IPL of Times Internet Ltd, “The contract is very much on and there is no problem with the BCCI. We are in regular touch with BCCI and they understand the difference between editorial content and business. There has been no souring of ties with BCCI because of either Times Now’s or TOI’s negative reporting on the IPL.”
So, whether or not Rajdeep was referring to Times Now in his tweet, it’s good to see that despite having a contract worth many crore, Times Now and TOI didn’t compromise their coverage on the IPL.
Blast from the past
The reason why the twitterverse thought the “media house” was Times Now could also be because this isn’t the first time that Times Group is being accused of witch-hunting by its rivals. In 2010, when the CWG scandal broke, Times Now and TOI relentlessly reported on the financial irregularities in the CWG and held Indian Olympic Association chief, Suresh Kalmadi responsible. Back then, it was alleged that Times Now and TOI had a vendetta against CWG owing to the Organising Committee turning down its request to be made the official media partner for the games. Eventually, TOI’s competitor, Hindustan Times and its partner Hungama won the contract for creating a website to put out realtime information on the games.
But even as TOI and Times Now were being accused of unfairly hounding Suresh Kalmadi for their own business interests, the CAG report on CWG revealed how CNN-IBN and NDTV were awarded contracts arbitrarily by the Games’ authorities. So, the “lucrative contract” which Rajdeep seemed dismissive of, once fell on his plate as well. Did he send out a tweet saying, “Extremely happy, arbitrarily won a CWG contract worth many crore”? Nope.
The CAG report says: “Organising Committee awarded contracts for Rs. 3.78 crore for production and broadcasting of commercials for promoting the CWG-2010 to CNN-IBN and NDTV. An arbitrary approach was followed, with no planning for specific channels and time slots, cost-benefit analysis, benchmarking of rates and tenders. Proposals were considered, in an ad hoc manner, as and when a proposal was received; no form of competitive tendering was adopted.”
Like public memory, the memory of our channel heads too seems really short. Newslaundry spoke to Pradyumn Maheshwari, editor-in-chief of mxm India and writer of the blog mediaah - one of the earliest media critique blogs – about Rajdeep’s claims. He says, “I don’t think it’s true as the concerned channel and the concerned contract are very much in place. Similar charges were levied against a certain media group during CWG. There was nothing to prove it. However, if these charges were to be true, we must accept them as the unfortunate reality of media business”.
While we still don’t know the truth behind Rajdeep’s tweet or who he was referring to, maybe – if this wasn’t just a random tweet by an addled brain – Rajdeep should have named the channel and done a news report on it. Defending Rajdeep’s tweet, Gaurav Kalra, Sports Editor of CNN IBN said, “No one can name anyone until there is evidence to back it. We are still not in the domain of reporting against the media. Some information remains in the domain of opinion or gossip. To be reported, it has to have some news worthiness.”
Point taken – no evidence, no newsworthiness. Plain gossip. To end on a very Rajdeepish Note:
For the media to retain and restore its credibility, it is important that it starts reporting stories on itself. If a certain media house is accused of wrongdoing, it is the duty of other channels and newspapers to report on it objectively. It is very sad to see that eminent members of the media only talk about the wrongdoings of their fraternity behind closed doors and in cosy circles. To lay claim to self-regulation, the media must start investigating allegations against its own fraternity. Naming and shaming is the way forward. Not tweeting.